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When it was time for me to go away to college, I chose one far away from home and high in the mountains. I met a girl there from Romania who liked to hike. The mountains and the vistas reminded her, she told me, of her homeland.
One spring weekend, after we had been seeing each other for several months, she took me on a hike to a place we hadn't gone before, a trail she said was special to her. It was unmarked, but she knew just where to park to be hidden from the road. Neither was it blazed, but once upon it, it was clear and easy to follow.
It began moderately in a beech and hazel wood, then rose steeply through hemlock to a stubby conifer growth near its summit, where the sun emerged through a thin cloud covering. It shone upon a trove of crystals of clear and rose and milky quartz, single crystals big enough to fill a hand and scattered everywhere. I stopped and picked up many of each variety, examining them closely, tempted by them, but in the end I gave them back to the mountain, and caught up to her, empty-handed. There were many more ahead, I was certain.
She left a few days later, having been offered a scholarship to pursue a graduate degree at a university in her homeland. I never saw her again.
I've tried to find that trail since on a hundred occasions. I'm sure I've been on it many times--every tree and rock and precipice comes clear to me like part of my personal songline--but I never again have found that strew of crystals. I suppose it's possible that other hikers have come along and spirited them all away, but I can't quite believe it.
the hidden path
through the woods
plain with snow